2013 Honorary Oscars Go to People Behind the Scenes of Cinema

Hal Needham, 2013 Honorary Oscars

Hal Needham, Dom DeLuise, and Burt Reynolds on the set for Cannonball Run. Image courtesy of The Bloodshot Eye.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Board of Governors have announced this year’s batch of Honorary Oscar recipients and for the first time in three years, none of those chosen are actors. In Contention reports that this year’s Academy Honorary Awards will go to stuntman Hal Needham, documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker, and Producer/Writer/Director George Stevens, Jr. Jeffrey Katzenberg, the executive who forms the “K” in “Dreamworks SKG,” will also be receiving the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

Each of these awards will be presented at the Governor’s Awards ceremony in November of this year with highlights played during next February’s Academy Awards.

Hal Needham has done stunt work for over 300 movies and television shows including Blazing Saddles, Chinatown, Little Big Man, and the “Mission: Impossible” TV series. He was one of the top stuntmen of the 1960s and 70s and frequently doubled for actors Richard Boone, Clint Walker, and Burt Reynolds. Along with his stunt work, Needham was also a director whose films included Smokey and the Bandit and The Cannonball Run. He invented the Shotmaker Elite Camera Car and Crane, which earned him a Scientific and Engineering Academy Award and an Emmy.

While I am not thoroughly familiar with Needham’s work, I am ecstatic that the Academy has chosen to recognize a stuntman. It’s a craft that often goes unappreciated and many of the greatest movies ever made would not have been possible without the talented and creative stunt coordinators and stunt men on set. Below is a video of some of Needham’s stunts when he was on the television show “Have Gun, Will Travel.”

D.A. Pennebaker was born in 1925, before the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences even existed. Throughout his career he directed over 20 feature length documentaries including Bob Dylan profile Don’t Look Back, Bill Clinton campaign film The War Room, and music documentaries Monterey Pop and Jimi Hendrix Live. He frequently collaborated with his wife Chris Hegedus and a number of their films have received DVD releases from the Criterion Collection.

George Stevens, Jr. may be best known for being the son of the multiple Academy Award winning director and cinematographer George Stevens. Stevens, Jr. has dedicated his life to preserving classic film and he serves as a founder of the American Film Institute. He has written and produced a significant number of television specials including AFI tributes and Kennedy Center honors.

Apart from helping found DreamWorks, Jeffrey Katzenberg has been very active in raising money for art and education-related causes. He serves on boards of organizations such as the California Institute of the Arts, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. He has raised over $200 million for the causes that he champions.

Katzenberg received an interesting profile in Nicole LaPorte’s book The Men Who Would Be King about the founding of DreamWorks. It’s definitely worth a read for anybody interested in the behind the scenes development of a major studio.

What do you think of these Honorary Award winners? Are they all worthy? Is there anybody who should have received recognition instead?

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